Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 11th 2015 Contents LISA ALLEN-AGOSTINI
Alyssa Highly is making her international
film debut in Sally s Way, a brand new chil-
dren s feature written and directed by
Joanne Gail Johnson.
Highly, 12, plays Sally, the heroine of the
story, who finds a way to keep her little
family together in spite of poverty and hard-
ship. The film is based on Johnson s book
of the same name.
When Sally s mother dies of Aids, the girl
moves in with her granny, but her granny s
house has no running water. To save herself
from going to an orphanage, and to help her
ill granny, Sally raises money for a water
tank for her granny s home.
"Sally is really strong," said Highly in an
interview last week. "She has to go through
so many things in her life, with her mom
dying, and her granny has to take care of
her. She wants better for herself. She wants
to be somebody."
So does Highly---the Form One student
at Providence Girls Catholic School has
dreamt of being an actress since she was
small. She has been a member of the Lilliput
Theatre since she was four-and-a-half, and
played a princess in the 2013 staging of The
King and I.
That was where Joanne Johnson spotted
her. At the time Johnson was considering
making a film of her 2002 book, inspired
by the Commonwealth report Because You re
a Girl. The 2011 report placed T&T as one
of the top Commonwealth countries for girls,
based on criteria such as access to education,
political participation, life expectancy, par-
ticipation in sports, and nutrition.
"Relatively we ranked third," recalled John-
son. "I thought this could be true, and asked
myself what could I do to make it a possibility
that we could see ourselves in this light.
That process started in 2011."
By 2013 Johnson had pulled Louris Lee
Sing and Tracy Farrag into her plan. The
three women, sitting together at the BCO
office on Ana Street, Woodbrook, showed
a rapport that has lasted even through two
years of production and post-production.
They count their partnership as serendip-
itous---they share a name. Lee Sing s middle
name is Joanna and Farrag s first name is
Joanne. They are the "Three Jos"
, they say.
As co-producers they applied for and got
a $100,000 production assistance grant from
the T&T Film Co---seed money for their
eventual shoestring budget of $649,000 for
the 87-minute feature.
A lot of the money came from their own
pockets, the three women said---a good
investment, as the film is now on its way
to an international premiere at the Children s
Film Festival Seattle. The festival runs from
January 22-February 7, in Washington, USA,
and all three producers and their young star
plan to attend the January 31 premiere.
There isn t a strong children s feature film
tradition in the region, and Sally s Way is
the first live-action children s feature for
T&T. Farrag, a video producer and writer,
was impressed with the level of commitment
the cast and crew of 40 had towards finishing
"There were a lot of long days on set. The
child is the central role in the film and she
was amazing," Farrag said.
Lee Sing heads Brown Cotton Outreach,
under which Sally s Way was made. The
non-profit performing arts company is the
parent company of BCO Film. Sally s Way
is registered with the Ministry of Arts and
Multiculturalism and qualifies for the 150
per cent tax exemption, she indicated.
Now in its final stages of post-produc-
tion---the sound is being remastered---the
film is almost complete. The Three Jos hope
to take it to five international festivals before
bringing it back to T&T for its domestic
premiere. Johnson noted that they have had
sponsorship from Angostura and the Ministry
of Trade, and a tremendous amount of com-
munity support from residents of Patna Vil-
lage and River Estate where the filming was
done on location.
Residents opened their homes and liming
spots to the film shoot, Farrag recalled. BCO
Film used community cooks for their cater-
ing, and the residents pitched in to build or
reinforce parts of the set, for example. John-
son commented on how such community
involvement helps change people s under-
standing of the film industry: it s not just
about glamour and movie stars, but a whole
lot of complementary industries will benefit
as well, and communities can also gain.
As for Highly, she plans on continuing
her career in drama---although she now wants
to be a bio-medical engineer as well.
Writer/director of Sally's Way, Joanne Gail Johnson, right, and actress Alyssa Highly.
Carnival Film Series to
honour Sparrow, Superior,
Pan! and the Calypso Craze'
Biennale 2014 ---Page B4
Alyssa Highly in character on the set of the children's feature film Sally's Way.
PHOTOS COURTESY BROWN COTTON OUTREACH FILM
Sally's Way eyes
The Three Jos and Alyssa Highly still
need additional sponsorship to get to
Seattle. To help, or for more info about
the film, go to sallyswayfilm.com
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